Reigning champions Juventus maintained their scintillating championship form by chalking up their 12th consecutive victory courtesy of tonight’s 4-2 success over Sampdoria on a gripping night of Serie A action in Turin.
A promising introduction was affirmed when Arturo Vidal collected Paul Pogba’s perfectly weighted through ball and slotted past Angelo Da Costa on 18 minutes, while Llorente made it two with a bullet header from Carlos Tevez’s corner six minutes later.
Sampdoria refused to lie down, though, and gave themselves hope when Andrea Barzagli turned the ball past Gigi Buffon following a teasing cross from the left-hand side. Their initial relief proved to be short-lived, however, as Vidal doubled his personal haul from the penalty spot moments before the break.
But the visitors battened down the hatches in the second half and began to ask a few questions of Antonio Conte’s men, Manolo Gabbiadini bundling the ball home from close range on 69 minutes to set up an intriguing finale.
With the outcome of the game continuing to hang in the balance as Sampdoria pressed for an equaliser, Pogba ultimately had the final say when he unleashed a spectacular curling effort that sailed past Da Costa with 12 minutes remaining.
For the visit of the Blucerchiati, Conte elected to make three changes from last Sunday’s 4-1 triumph over Cagliari. Andrea Barzagli returned from suspension in place of Martin Caceres, while Angelo Ogbonna came in for Leonardo Bonucci as the anchor of the three-man rearguard. In midfield, Claudio Marchisio, who opened his account for the season in Sardinia, was handed the chance to impress at the heart of the Bianconeri engine room, with Andrea Pirlo dropping to the bench.
Much of the pre-match talk in the build-up to tonight’s affair had centered on the recent resurgence of Sampdoria and the pitfalls of underestimating Sinisa Mihajlovic’s rejuvenated charges on home soil.
And with nearest challengers Roma keeping the pressure on with an earlier 3-0 home victory over Livorno, Juventus were left in no doubt as to the importance of producing a solid display in order to maintain their imperious domestic form.
A positive start to proceedings saw Stephan Lichtsteiner, who weighed in with two assists and a goal in Sardinia, receive plenty of the ball early on down the right-hand side, only for his deliveries to be swept away by rugged Sampdoria defending.
Increased momentum soon resulted in a flurry of chances falling in the hosts’ favour. The first of these arrived at the feet of Giorgio Chiellini, who was denied twice in quick succession with last-ditch blocks on 12 minutes.
After Carlos Tevez had fired a left-footed shot over from an acute angle inside the box, Juventus soon fashioned the clear-cut opportunity they had been craving with 18 minutes on the clock.
A quick counter-attacking move saw the ball worked to the feet of Pogba, whose delightful reverse pass picked out the run of Vidal to perfection – the Chilean making no mistake with a delicate finish beyond the advancing Da Costa to put the hosts a deserved goal to the good.
The lead was doubled six minutes later when Tevez’s corner kick identified the formidable presence of Fernando Llorente, who continued his recent purple patch in front of goal with a strong header that arrowed into the top corner.
Fearing the worst, Sampdoria, the only side to do the double over Juventus in last season’s Serie A, rallied and could have pegged the scores back on 26 minutes when Shkodran Mustafi’s shot came through a crowd of crowded players, only to be stopped by the outstretched foot of a razor-sharp Gigi Buffon.
Keen to stave off any potential Blucerchiati fightback, Conte’s men pressed forward and were only denied a third by a smart Da Costa save at his near post from Tevez’s lightning strike.
But with all the odds in favour of the hosts extending their lead, it was in fact Sampdoria who reversed the deficit seven minutes shy of the break, Andrea Barzagli inadvertently turning a teasing cross from the left-hand side beyond Buffon.
Yet the Bianconeri were in no mood to dwell on an unfortunate episode and soon reestablished their two-goal supremacy, Vidal’s bustling run into the box drawing a penalty which he converted with aplomb for his 10th Serie A goal of the season.
Bolstered by several words of encouragement during the interval, Sampdoria emerged for the restart with added steel and could have pulled a goal back on the hour-mark, Gigi Buffon again producing heroics between the posts to deny Pawel Wszolek from point-blank range.
Down the other end Llorente had the opportunity to double his tally after latching on to Vidal’s searching pass from deep, but dragged his shot wide under pressure from Sampdoria bodies in hot pursuit.
The visitors’ desire to chase the game was rewarded on 69 minutes when Gabbiadini, co-owned by the Bianconeri, forced the ball over the line after yet more heroics from Buffon had seen the goalkeeper claw out Pedro Obiang’s header.
But it was Pogba who would eventually prove the match-winner nine minutes later, curling a splendid effort beyond the reach of Da Costa to secure another priceless three points for Conte’s irrepressible Juventus machine.